EUROPEAN countries are stepping up their efforts to extract
electricity from the winds that blow across their continent.
Using California's experience as a model, a new breed of "wind
farmers" in Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Denmark, and
other countries are on course to harvest increasing quantities of
pollution-free energy from huge turbines located on towers on
exposed tracts of land.
In Britain, where some of Europe's strongest winds blow,
commercial exploitation of wind power, after a slow start, is about
to take a major step forward with the erection of a farm of 103
turbines. The total generating capacity will be 31 megawatts.
Tim Kirby, chairman of EcoGen, a British company working with
Japanese industrialists, reckons that the 86-million British pound
($150-million) wind farm on a site near Powys, Wales, will be
"By the end of 1993, power from the farm will account for one
quarter of Britain's wind-generated electricity," Mr. Kirby says.
Elsewhere in Europe enthusiasm for clean energy is becoming
Denmark, with 320 megawatts installed capacity of wind power
already, is aiming to derive 10 percent of its energy requirements
from that source by the year 2000, according to government
officials in Copenhagen.
The Netherlands, where picturesque windmills have twirled for
centuries, pumping water and grinding corn, will rely on
wind-driven turbines for 1,000 megawatts of installed capacity by
the end of the century.
By that time, Italy will be pumping 600 megawatts of
wind-generated electricity into its national power grid, and Greece
400 megawatts. Germany hopes to have 200 megawatts of wind power on
stream by 1995.
These figures may appear small, compared with the 1,350
megawatts of power wind farms in California now produce.
The turbines in California first began turning in 1981, after
the oil price shocks of the 1970s. The aim is to generate 10
percent of the state's power needs by 2005. But Europe's commitment
to wind power is escalating rapidly, with governments providing tax
boosts to individuals and companies willing to invest in generating
Stewart Boyle, energy policy director for the environmental
organization Greenpeace, says it would be feasible to supply 10
percent of Britain's power needs by the end of the decade using a
combination of wind turbines, wave power, and other "green" energy
British energy officials are enthusiastic about developing a
range of renewable energy resources. But in some cases the battle
to erect modern-day windmills involves conflict with landowners and
conservationists. This is one reason why the official target for
wind-generated energy is still fairly low - 2 percent of national
electricity by the year 2000.
Michael Heseltine, secretary of state for the environment in the
last British government, got more than a taste of the
contradictions and conflicting pressures that come into play in the
pursuit of "green electricity." The trouble, he says, is that often
the best places to locate wind turbines are areas of great natural